Princeton men’s basketball 2018-19 season recap

I attended the University of Virginia during the Barry Parkhill era, earning a law degree in 1972. Needless to say I was elated when my “borrowed heroes” captured the Cavaliers’ first national championship. Their “worst to first” turnaround brought to mind the Miracle Mets’ run to the World Series in 1969 while I was in Charlottesville.

It is time, however, to return my attention to my real heroes, the Princeton Tigers, the season just concluded and the prospects for the future.

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Cornell men’s basketball 2018-19 season recap

With Stone Gettings transferring from Cornell, expectations went from a possible contender to a team that may not even get 10 wins. But despite not getting into the Ivy League Tournament, the Big Red had a pretty solid season and they far surpassed their expectations. Matt Morgan was still Matt Morgan, but forwards Jimmy Boeheim and Josh Warren stepped it up and each had big roles as secondary scorers while seniors Steven Julian and Joel Davis anchored the defense. The team played some great games, including almost-upsets over Yale and Syracuse and a sweep of Harvard.

A lot of Cornell’s problem throughout the season was poor rebounding. The Big Red could hold teams to 35-45 percent from the field most nights, yet still lose. For context, they were 352nd out of 353 Division I teams in offensive rebound percentage.

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Cornell charges back and fades out to fall at Princeton, 68-59

Cornell trailed 54-36 at Jadwin Gym with less than 14 minutes remaining and it looked like the game may be too far out of reach.

A 23-7 Big Red fun followed, with Riley Voss and Jimmy Boeheim leading the way on the scoring front.

But Cornell couldn’t muster a field goal in the final 5:58, losing 68-59, done in by eight points down the stretch from Ryan Schwieger en route to his leading all scorers with a career-high 23 points.

Read moreCornell charges back and fades out to fall at Princeton, 68-59

Harvard pushes past Princeton, 78-69

Spirits were high at Jadwin Gym as last night’s battle for second place between the Tigers and Harvard got underway before a hyped up home crowd and a national TV (ESPNews) audience. Most knowledgeable observers and the oddsmakers predicted a one-possession game in the final minute, the type of game in which home court advantage might be crucial. For the most part, the somewhat limited success Princeton coach Mitch Henderson has enjoyed against Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has been at home.

Both teams experienced lackluster performances last week. The Tigers lost twice on the road (Yale and Brown) while the Crimson were stretched to the limit in a triple overtime win at home against Columbia, followed by a second-half collapse against Cornell on Saturday. Amaker surprised the Ivy community with a rare public putdown of his team, calling his players’ performance against the Big Red “selfish.”
The shoo-in All-Ivy point guard unleashed a Niagara Falls of scoring last week, including 45 against Columbia, almost willing his team to the win last Friday night.
The following Friday night, Aiken’s work against the Tigers would again prove decisive in a 78-69 victory for the visitors, in which Aiken outscored Princeton 20-19 himself in the final 8:10.
A fast start by the constantly improving Richmond Aririguzoh (RA) pushed the Tigers to a 15-8 lead after seven minutes. Undeterred, Harvard used some excellent ball movement and timely shooting to turn things around quickly. The Crimson reclaimed the lead, 21-19, with 9:33 remaining. From that point, Noah Kirkwood, a dazzling freshman talent, and Justin Bassey stymied the Tigers over the next three minutes, extending the visitors’ lead to 32-25. Jaelin Llewellyn’s lone three-pointer for the evening, followed quickly by a Sebastian Much bomb, one of 4 for the Californian, enabled the Tigers to get within one point, 33-32, at the break.
Aiken’s nine and RA’s eight were high for each team at that point. Henderson was quite satisfied with the defensive work of Myles Stephens on Aiken. Once again, Stephens was assigned to the opponent’s best player. Perhaps ominously for the Tigers, Devin Cannady’s first start at home following his three-game suspension was not going well. He was 0-for-4 from beyond the arc and 0-for-1 from the line. For all that, the Tigers were encouraged by the fact that the statistical battle was a virtual standoff through he first 20 minutes. Harvard’s six made free throws to three for the Tigers accounted for the slim Crimson advantage on the scoreboard.
Harvard controlled the play early in the second half, seizing a 42-37 lead after three minutes. A Much-needed (forgive me!) three-pointer kept the Tigers close. His tough layup at the 13:38 mark restored the lead for the Tigers and spurred a five-minute spurt by Princeton tom its largest lead of the evening 54-48 with 8:33 remaining.
With the Tigers holding a one-point lead at the 13:13 mark, Aiken crumpled to the floor in apparent agony. He had twisted his right ankle and was helped to the bench. Fortunately for the Crimson, he was back on the floor in less than a minute.
His presence turned the game around in a way observers will not soon forget.

An Aiken layup cut the lead to four with 8:10 left. RA countered with a layup. On the next Crimson possession, Aiken found himself isolated on Jose Morales. His eyes widened. With the clock running down, Aiken launched a long three-pointer. Morales committed the cardinal sin, sending Aiken to the line to complete the four-point play. Over the next three minutes plus, Aiken posted 11 points, propelling Harvard to a 10-point lead, 70-60, with 3:53 to play.
The Tigers eventually cut Harvard’s lead to 70-64 but would get no closer.
Aiken’s 24 second-half points showcased another phenomenal performance in his team’s successful effort to hold on to a share of second place in the Ivy standings at 5-2. The Tigers third straight loss leaves them at 4-3, still very much alive in the Ivy race.
For Princeton, RA shared scoring honors with Cannady (15), and both Tigers added three assists. Defensively, Aririguzoh held Chris Lewis to nine points in 18 minutes and Henry Welsh to none in 15. Sebastian Much had 14 points in 19 minutes. Jerome Desrosiers pitched in with seven points and five rebounds, all in the first half. He appeared just briefly in the second stanza. Cannady and Llewellyn combined to shoot 2-for-12 from deep. Harvard’s 10 threes to eight for Princeton spelled doom for the home team.
Looking ahead to tonight’s encounter with Dartmouth, one expects RA to get more touches and Morales less. A win tonight may be a critical component in the Tigers’ bid to return to Ivy Madness. A loss turns a promising start to the Ivy season into a desperate struggle to remain relevant.

Princeton notches huge Empire State sweep sans Cannady

The Tigers entered their annual three-week winter exam break riding an emotional wave. Five straight wins following the expected wipeout at Duke, including two stunning wins over Big 5 champion Penn, catapulted the Tigers to the top of the Ivy heap at 2-0. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson hoped that the layoff would not impact the Tigers’ momentum facing the first two back-to-backs on the road.

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Huge questions surround Princeton after exam break with Cannady suspended

Princeton’s customary post-holiday exam break normally passes quietly and uneventfully for the men’s and women’s basketball teams as the Tigers play no games for more than two weeks while the rest of the college basketball world shifts into high gear for conference play.

This year, a stunning development marred the exam break with the news that senior co-captain Devin Cannady had been suspended from the team for a violation of team rules.  The University has remained tight-lipped about Cannady’s status, making no announcements about when or whether Cannady will return to the team.  In what perhaps is an indication that the Princeton sharpshooter may be allowed to return to the team at some point this season, Cannady sat on the team bench during Princeton’s return to action on Sunday against Division III opponent Wesley College of Delaware.

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Can Princeton contend for an Ivy League title?

With back-to-back wins over No. 17 Arizona State and the defending Ivy League champion Penn Quakers, the Princeton men’s basketball team has their fans wondering whether the Tigers can contend for a league title.

A few weeks ago, thoughts of an Ivy League championship seemed wholly unrealistic.  After an exhibition win over Division III DeSales, the Tigers opened their Division I season inauspiciously with double-digit losses at Lehigh and at home against Farleigh Dickinson. Princeton’s prospects brightened after three straight wins over Monmouth, Maine and George Washington; however, both Monmouth and Maine were winless when Princeton played them, and George Washington was 1-6 when the Colonials invaded Jadwin Gym.

Another pair of double-digit losses to St. Joseph’s and St. John’s suggested that Princeton hadn’t cured its defensive woes of a season ago when the Tigers allowed nearly 72 points per game, worst in the Ivy League.  Then the Tigers suffered their most lopsided loss in program history, when the Duke Blue Devils thrashed Princeton by an astonishing 51 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a nationally televised game.

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Penn-Princeton doubleheader yields two thrillers at Jadwin Gym

Saturday’s Penn-Princeton doubleheader at Jadwin Gym was full of highs and lows for both Ps, as the two games featured a combined 12 lead changes (seven for the men, five for the women) and a split for each school.

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Princeton flipped the script at Arizona State

The much anticipated debut of freshman Jaelin Llewellyn at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9 lifted the spirits of Tiger fans somewhat. A solid win against Iona on a neutral court, featuring another star turn by Llewellyn, pushed the expectations meter upward. Except the Duke Blue Devils were next on the schedule. The loss was anticipated; the 51-point annihilation was not. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was concerned that such a beating might inflict lasting psychological damage.

When the Tigers escaped Lafayette three nights later with a narrow win, a month after Penn had defeated the Leopards by 30, Henderson’s concern was hardly relieved. Injuries continued to mount. Myles Stephens, Devin Cannady and Llewellyn were all helped from the court in Easton, although all thankfully returned to the game.

Then Princeton’s final out-of-conference opponent, the Arizona State Sun Devils, defeated No. 1 Kansas in Tempe. Could the Tigers’ prospects get any worse? Yes, they could.

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Princeton claws past Lafayette, 81-79

The Princeton Tigers returned to the northeast, hoping to shake off the trauma of their 101-50 smackdown Tuesday by the NBA’s Durham Blue Devils. On Friday night, the Tigers visited traditional foe Lafayette in what Mitch Henderson hoped might be a welcome change of pace. In no mood to cooperate, the Leopards came in determined to turn their season around after a dismal 2-7 start.

Coach Mitch Henderson prepared his team for what he characterized as a “typically tough league game on the road.” Fran O’Hanlon’s team employs a disciplined offensive style, emphasizing ball and player movement with a lot of screens, usually resulting in an open look somewhere.

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